Quick, before it gets deleted!

Oh dear. Not only are plenty of comments on Ben White’s latest article on CiF disappearing pretty quickly, but Ben White has joined Stephen Sizer in turning off comments on his blog. Why? Ben White can understand anti-Semites, but can’t understand Zionists? Oh dear.

Anyway, this comment from Zkharya really deserves an airing, especially if you’re interested in the theology behind all this:

‘[…]as regards “White does use loaded words e.g.Aparthied to buttress his message;however,he does not convey an anti-Israel mindset(@ least not in this piece)”, anyone who has been following White over the years knows of his repeatedly essentiallizing Zionism as the evil at the heart of this conflict. His latest book/pamphlet, aimed at a mass market, attempts to spread a gospel of Zionism as an essentially predatory evil, with Zionist Jews as predatory colonial dispossessors/crucifiers of innocent Palestinian Muslims and Christians.

Nur Masalha’s commendation is interesting because he was highly influenced by his mentor, Michael Prior, who concocted a Palestinian Christian (and, by extension, Muslim) liberation theology, which held Modern Zionist, Palestinian or Israeli Jews had expelled Palestinian Christians and Muslims, just like the ancient Israelites expelled the Canaanites. And there was more than a nasty hint that they were crucifying (Palestinian) Christ, all over again.

It was a deadly concuction of ancient genocide and cosmically criminal crucifixion conflated with modern ethnic cleansing. I am not saying White expresses (at least, not overtly), but it is interesting, as I said, that on Amazon, Nur Masalha’s is the first and most glowing commendation.

White sneers at writers like Howard Jacobson, when the latter draws an equivalence between Jewish and Palestinian Muslim and Christian desire for restoration and return, calling him what he (White) calls a “liberal Zionist”:


Here he derides even liberal Zionism, suggesting that he holds no brief for even limited Jewish nationalism i.e. he denies Jews exactly what he accords his fellow Palestinian Christians, and, by extension, Muslims.

In a Christian, whose Christianity has held Jews to be a nation dispossessed for 2000 years, in no small part resulting in their being mostly murdered or expelled from Christendom and Islam in the 19th and 20th centuries, before 1914 mostly to America, after mostly to Palestine or what became Israel, I think this the height of hypocrisy, since, as I said, he claims to seek a specifically Christian justice:


He allots Zionist or Jewish national aspirations no legitimacy whatsoever, essentializing them as what he calls “colonialism”, recognises no legitimate Jewish national desire for restoration and return, and privileges the claims of Palestinian Christians and Muslims above all others, effectively absolving them of, or ignoring, any serious wrong doing contributory to their own demise.

As someone who professes to be a Christian interested in a just peace, he finds fault with Zionist, Palestinian or Israeli Jews in just about everything, while forgiving Palestinian Christians and Muslims just aboout everything, which fact I find at best a double standard, at worst hypocrisy.

His understanding of the history of the conflict is, I think, shallow and one-sided, and decidedly skewed in favour whose cause he espouses.

Fine. But don’t don’t pretend this is fair, impartial or balanced history, let alone a sober academic account, least of all peacemaking, as he disingenously claims. It is polemic. I think hypocritical polemic.’



Filed under theology

48 responses to “Quick, before it gets deleted!

  1. modernityblog

    I think that is the problem with much debate nowadays, White, the Guardian moderators and others try to control it, set what is off limits and delete comments which amply show White’s faulty history, false quotes and tortuous reasoning.

    But fortunately they can not stop the ridicule that such antics create.

    Feeble-minded censorship won’t work in the age of the Internet, as so many dictatorships around the world have found. It is a shame that those running the Guardian and Cif haven’t worked that one out yet.

    PS: great post 🙂

  2. seismicshock

    yeah, isn’t it crazy? what happened to comments being free, facts being sacred, etc. Psychologically I find it so interesting what Ben White’s been doing, talking about separation and apartheid so much, whilst keeping Zionists so far from him. He must know it’s a lie, so he keeps those who challenge it away from him, perhaps not so much out of hatred, but out of necessity to maintain the illusion. And so he becomes the practitioner of separation and apartheid, and thus becomes what he hates. The only way then to avoid self-reflection is to keep the focus on the evil that is Zionism.

    The really sad thing is I don’t think Ben White cares much about the Palestinians. It’s that horrible comment about the “native” population of the West Bank that really did it for me:


    “…but the Palestinian Authority is also staffed with “native” West Bank leaders for whom business interests long since trumped fighting for national liberation. Then there are also the groupings created by individuals who have a loyal power base around them.”

  3. modernityblog

    Indeed Seismic,

    It strikes me that White and many others at the Guardian have part of that old fashion colonial mindset about people in “far away lands”.

    An inverted, condescending, one, but still there is a form of colonialism in their attitude.

  4. Pingback: Quick. « ModernityBlog

  5. Thank you for bring Ben White’s comment to my attention. I found it to be an excellent contribution to the debate.

    Peace for the 11 million human beings in this troubled region is possible when we question how the conflict is framed. As a European Australian I see enormous lessons that can be learnt from the history of the country I was born with the situation in the Palestinian territories and Israel.

    Ben’s analysis is a positive contribution.

    I realise many on this site will disagree with my support for Ben. I respect your perspective. It is just my experience has led me to think differently to you.

    Details of my perspective are on my blog.


  6. seismicshock

    Stewart, many thanks for the link to your blog which I’ll take time to have a look at. It looks great.

    It’s not necessarily Ben White’s political position that wind people up so much as his style and methodology, as well as his attitudes towards Jews. Understanding Palestinian suffering and Palestinian nationalism is one thing, understanding antisemitism and dismissing Jewish suffering is quite another.

    Stephen Sizer et al are correct to highlight the dangers of extreme Christian Zionism but there are also problems with extreme Christian anti-Zionism.

    I commend your efforts for peace and your approach to this question, and thank you for stopping by.

  7. slaughtered abo

    peace off, sod off back to Europe and leave Australia to the indigenous Aboriginal peoples.

  8. Some people turn comments off there site to keep it free from personal attacks, hate speech, foul language or to limit the publication of unsavoury voices; as well as to keep some form of control of a site.

    The beauty of the internet is that within certain limits people can express themselves. If Ben turns his comments off that is his choice. There is no need to falsely presume something sinister about that.

    Is the glass half empty or half full? A synic would say one thing an optimist another, a ‘realist’ would say one thing and assume ipso facto that because they had defined themself as a realist this miraculously gave them the correct answer.

    A charitable attitude toward Ben would allow him the right to run his blog as he choses within the limit not to harm others (this is not a limit not to offend others).

  9. seismicshock

    Ben White has made some big claims on his blog, such claiming that the arrest of antisemites planning to blow up a synagogue was a ‘threat to his freedoms.’

    Many of Ben White’s critics displayed a charitable attitude towards him, as instead of assuming the worst, they asked him directly on his blog which freedoms were threatened by this arrest. Unfortunately, he declined to answer, and still has not given a response to this question, which I’m sure you’ll agree deserves an answer (here’s the original post: http://www.benwhite.org.uk/blog/?p=976 – a response was posted here: http://www.hurryupharry.org/2009/05/21/ben-white-sees-conspiracy-in-synagogue-bomb-plot/ ).

    Ben contributes to a site named ‘Comment Is Free’, and it would be nice if he would extend the same freedom to others.

  10. God’s Grace and Peace to you #7,

    Could you detail more of your perspective?

    There is a tendency to confuse perspectives that seek to reframe our nation state creation stories as ones that seek a rewinding of history and the removal of fellow human beings.

    This may not necessarily be the case.

    I acknowledge the barbarity and destruction that happened to indigenous people of the land where I was born and now live. Wherever human beings have been there has been violence and destruction to another. This is not unique to Australia, England, the US, South Africa Israel, Kenya, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, China or Sierra Leone.

    Who in their right mind would call for the removal of people of non Celtic descent from Britain, non Aboriginal descent from Australia or non Arab PAlestinian descent from Israel?

    No, the question relates to how we historically frame the nation state creation story. Skeletons exist in the closet for all people’s – English, Palestinian, Jewish, European Australian and Aboriginal Australians all have examples of human beings who have demonstrated horrific examples of barabarity and inhumane action as well as those who demonstrated gracious acts of love and compassion.

    Again, peace be with you.

  11. modernityblog

    “If Ben turns his comments off that is his choice. There is no need to falsely presume something sinister about that.”

    I am sure that is mostly the case with others, except Ben White is rather touchy about criticism and kept an open comments policy, and only deleted comments when people pointed out his mistakes and shoddy reasoning.

    As White’s banning of an elderly Jewish gentleman from his recent meeting shows he can’t take criticism.

    No false presumptions there, that’s what White has done.

  12. modernityblog

    “Skeletons exist in the closet for all people’s – English, Palestinian, Jewish, European Australian and Aboriginal Australians all have examples of human beings who have demonstrated horrific examples of barabarity and inhumane action as well as those who demonstrated gracious acts of love and compassion.”

    I do wish that you wouldn’t indulge in sweeping generalisations and false comparison, they don’t bolster your arguments.

  13. Thanks Seismicshock for the welcome,

    In relation to comment #9 I cannot speak for Ben but I respect his right not to reply.

    My position on the the New York Times article 20 May 2009 is as follows:

    The NY Times article publicised the arrest of 4 individuals in relation to an alleged plot to bomb 2 synagogues and
    the shoot down military planes. The charges contained in the Complaint are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty (these are the words of the FBI Press release 20 May relating to these arrests). If the plot is found to be true in a court of law then of course this is an abominable act. But to speculate on details can sometimes do more harm than good.

    All people’s freedom is threatened by the arrest of one individual as it may be used as a precedence against ourselves. An arrest of an individual is the loss of one our most fundamental freedom’s the freedom to liberty. liberty. The state is justified to deny someone their liberty in ensuring the protection of another more sacred freedom, the freedom to life. So if the FBI is right to arrest such individuals if they have sufficient grounds of evidence that can be proved in a court of law beyond a reasonable doubt.

    It is the right of people to be presumed innocent of a charge by a state until be proved guilty in a court of law.

    Journalists, bloggers and people of conscience have a responsibility to ensure a fair trial and a responsibility to ensure that freedoms are protected.

    Legitimate debate such as occurring between Ben White and your fellow bloggers is part of a healthy democratic system.

    I pray for the 4 accused that if they did as charged intend to do such things will seek repentance and ask forgiveness for their sins. I pray that others will see the wickedness of such actions. But I also pray that others will acknowledge the place that Ben White and others have to question the status quo.

  14. Hi modernityblog,

    I relation to your comment #12,

    I agree that sweeping generalisations and false comparisons can be unfair.

    My question is what are some examples of generalisations that we can make to sure the common journey of various societies through time? What are common stories of fellow human beings standing up for the marginalised? What are common stories where fellow human beings have called for inhuman acts to be perpetrated on another? My last question was how can we use those stories to help us to appreciate the rich diversity that exists within the Palestinian, Palestinian-Israeli, Jewish-Israeli and Arab community?


  15. The first question should read:
    My question is what are some examples of generalisations that we can make to show the common journey of various societies through time?…

  16. modernityblog

    “My question is what are some examples of generalisations that we can make to sure the common journey of various societies through time? What are common stories of fellow human beings standing up for the marginalised?”

    My point, if it wasn’t clear enough is, that YOU are indulging in sweeping generalisations and making false comparisons and I would have thought that you’d know that was wrong and unhelpful, as the holder of an MA? It is sloppy thinking.

    btw, what was that MA in? I have been reading your site and couldn’t see the subject, granted my eyes are none too good.

  17. Thank you for your reply modernityblog,

    My MA was a MA in Peace and Conflict Studies.

    The tile of my thesis was ‘Empathising with the enemy: Transformation of the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict by overcoming psychological and structural obstacles’.

    Your point was crystal clear.

    My questions still remains as a way to evince your perspective on how to respond to such questions.

    Are you suggesting that people with heritage from English, Palestinian, Jewish, European Australians or Aboriginal Australian ancestry do not all have examples of human beings who have demonstrated horrific examples of barabarity and inhumane action as well as those who demonstrated gracious acts of love and compassion?

    The summation there is good and bad in all ‘people’s’. All human societies are a work in progress and need to evry generation looking at what good or bad they have done to other people and the planet as a way to avoid making the same mistakes as past and present generations.

    What is so dangerous about such a generalisation – to say that we human beings are fallible???

  18. modernityblog

    Ahh yes, I see, I was reading it backwards (conclusion first).

    Sorry, but if you wish to frame the discussion in vague generalisations then I can not stop you, but forgive me if I don’t engage with you. I don’t find such nebulous thinking to be conducive to political discussion or conversing on current affairs.

    I read your second letter to Rudd, interesting, but sadly I think it borrows much from the Ben White School of historical thinking.

    I look forward to your review of White’s book, no doubt you will shower praise on it 🙂

    • Hi modernity blog,

      I respect your decision not to engage in further discussion with me.

      I thought it would be good to start with the general first before the specific. I had hoped that we could find points of agreement and then move to points of difference. It may seem a slower process but I believe it can be more fruitful in understanding.

      It is good of you to read my letter to Mr Rudd. My perspective was totally uninfluenced by Ben White and simply the product of my own experience which is shared by many. I would encourage such historical perspectives as they help build empathy for those who today are being labelled as the aggressor (this statement works for both communities).

      You might want to look at my blog on Jewish peace activists. It is great to see the work of people like Uri Avnery, Rabbi Arik Asherman and Rabbi Michael Lerner.


  19. seismicshock

    Stewart – those are actually fair enough answers. But when many asked Ben White the same question, they were met with silence – hence the frustration.

    There are other questions which urgently need addressing, such as why does Ben White understand anti-Semites, but not understand Zionists? Why does he consider Holocaust denial to be anti-imperialism ( http://www.islamic-world.net/wmprint.php?ArtID=4662 )?

  20. seismicshock

    However Stewart, another problem is why Ben White chose to report on that one incident? In the context of his blog which is ostensibly about Israel-Palestine, what did the synagogue instance have to do with this? Ben White, at the time I understand, was blogging from Brazil. That same week, a neo-Nazi plot to blow up a synagogue in Porto Alegre ( http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1242212440754&pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull ). Why did Ben White not report on that incident?

    This was one of the few times that Ben White has actually focused on Jewish suffering, and he chose to focus his sympathies towards the perpetrators rather than the victims. In another article he claims “I am not an anti-Semite, but I understand those who are.” Can you see why this is concerning to those interested in peace and justice?

  21. Thanks for your reply Seismicshock,

    Ben might simply be frustrated with responding to the same critics. He might choose to limit himself to responding to those he believes might have a chance of changing. Take for example in the few short exchanges between myself and another member of this community. This member has decided not to engage in further comment with me because to him/her it seems a waste of his/her time.

    I respect that. Each person must choose their battles.

    I live in hope that there might be an ounce of good that can come out of these discussions and that we each may leave the conversation a better person and in a better position to understand another.

    I myself have a limited time to enter into such debates and sacrifice my family and work time as a result. But that is nothing compared to the sacrifices that are being made to the people who as we communicate are living in the midst of war, fear and poverty.

  22. I am not sure if Ben White, Naim Ateek or Stephen Sizer are big fish in this whole fiasco and worthy of so much debate time. Is there more value in calling those to account who instigate the acts of war be they Israelis, Arab or Palestinian; or suppliers of armaments be they American, or Iranian.

  23. My statement in # 22 is not to undervalue the work of the three mentioned persons, far from it, they have offered tremendous insights to the conflict. My statement was to encourage an approach which did not seek to vilify but one that deals with on the ground realities of the conflict, take the example of the shooting of Tristan Anderson, the continued settlement expansion, the lack of response to finding ways to prevent violence from either side.

  24. seismicshock

    Stewart – this blog is concerned with manifestations of contemporary antisemitism in the Christian world. Often that involves Israel; sometimes it doesn’t (see my coverage of Robert West, Lorant Hegedus Jr, etc. etc.)

    If however, we should just stick to Israel like you claim about White, Sizer and Ateek, then how do you explain what the New York synagogue has to do with Israel? Or why has Stephen Sizer been emailing neo-Nazis, if this is all just about Israel? How is Ateek’s “Palestine = one huge Golgotha/ Israeli crucifixion system” relevant to solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

    My interest in this blog is not solving the Middle East, it is discussing contemporary Christian antisemitism. If Sizer, White and Ateek aren’t worth so much debate, then why are you here debating about them?

    • Hi Seismick shock,

      Yes, it is essential that we should be concerned about antisemitism in all its forms and it is especially good that you focus on antisemitism that exists in some Christian communities.

      However, my concern is that any characterisation of Sizer, White or Ateek as antisemitic is unfounded, fallacious and poorly targeted. Criticism of Israel is not synonymous with antisemitism. Criticism of Israel just as criticism of the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, the British, American or Australian Government is an essential part of democracy. We can agree or disagree with our perspectives on S, W and A but to cross the line and to vilify such individuals is hurtful, defamatory and counter-productive.

      Why not choose obvious examples like neoNazi groups that espouse white supremist positions cloaked within a warped Christian ideology. My suggestion was that we are wasting valuable time trying to find some manevolent force within the three individuals that have been recently discussed.

      I have met both Sizer and Ateek and have followed their position over the years. I have spent time at Sabeel in Jerusalem and have met Sizer in the UK.

      May I ask how you would characterise the perspective of Abuna Elias Chacour, another central figure within the Sabeel community?

      In relation to your statement about Sizer’s contact with neonazis – this does not necessarily follow as something sinister or evidence of wrong doing. Unique individuals might contact such groups to question them about their position and seek for a new way of viewing the world. Is that such a bad thing? Jesus spent time with unsavoury types of the day. Should we give up on those who adopt such racist views? Should there not be people of faith who can communicate and meet with those who most in the community will stay away from?

  25. modernityblog

    “It is good of you to read my letter to Mr Rudd. My perspective was totally uninfluenced by Ben White and simply the product of my own experience which is shared by many.”

    I was jesting 🙂

    I wouldn’t dream of suggesting that you were influenced by Ben White, but having scanned your MA, I can see that you shared many of his obvious faults, an ahistorical view of issues and a tendency towards unnecessary simplification.

    It is a pity.

    I have NO problem with peace activists, they conduct many very noble endeavors, but I do get a bit annoyed at Westerners who can’t manage to apply sufficient skills to read up on the Middle East, then proceed to foist their misconceived notions on others.

    I think that the Middle East needs peace, but what it certainly needs is less Westerners using it as a proxy for their own neurosis.

    I do NOT accused you of that, but such an attitude is common amongst political activists in and around this topic, which is why I am concerned about Ben White.

    On the latter point, please do take a look at CiF and the racism that pours out on any thread relating to Israel.

    You will also notice how racism is picked up pretty quickly there, except when it is aimed at Jews.

    CiF, I am sure you will remember, is the product of a liberal newspaper, The Guardian, which is shameful when you think about it.

  26. It is good that you reply modernityblog,

    I can appreciate your apprehension and disdain for persons that share a perspective like mine. Yes it is different to yours.

    I understand that it is confronting to one’s personal being especially on such a personal issue.

    I am curious as to what evidence you use to say my approach is ahistorical. Can you please indicate where this is most evident? Remember those who charge someone of oversimplification need to respond with detail, lest you be guilty of your own charge. Given I have written 100s of pages on this subject which is online I would appreciate you directing me to detail of your perspective.

    The historical argument is one of the most compelling means to present the conflict. History is an invaluable means to build empathy and compassion for the other. If we can learn each others story and see our common struggle to survive then we can be in a better position to work cooperatively together. I agree you can choose to say this is a simplification. Simplifying something does not necessarily mean something is invalid. To say God is love is a simplification. But does not such a simplification help us as human beings as “children of God” (another simplification) to reach for new heights to help build a kingdom of God (another simplification).

    Keeping our ideas simple are an invaluable means of communication. The problem is if the simplifications are wrong.

    I choose to look at the good and bad in all. You are a good person because you take the time to try and reason with people. We disagree on some things and agree on others. We can choose the language, tone, reasons and means we communicate our disagreement.

    My sadness is when people put down people who think differently without thoroughly presented reasoning. Just because you say something does not make it so. Evidence based discussion is more productive so that all can see.

    I have spent years reading various primary documents United Nations, League of Nations, Royal Commissions, Parliamentary records, White Papers, letters. I have travelled Israel, Palestine, Europe and the US meeting Jewish and Palestinian people listening to people’s sources of hope and sources of concern. Suggestions that ‘Westerners’ should butt is ridiculous. What does it mean to say we are our brother’s/sister’s keeper? Yes, we should exercise caution when approaching issues of conflict but do you seriously think that ‘westerners’ should turn a blind eye to what is happening in Zimbabwe, the Congo, the Sudan, Tibet, Western China, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri LAnka, Saudi Arabia, Egypt etc. Where does the line end. As an individual if we followed such a rule is a person from New South Wales restricted from discussion about issues happening in another state or territory (for example the Federal Government’s actions in Northern Territory).

    Modernityblog I respect the knowledge you obviously have I hope that we can communicate respectfully without going down the dangerous task of ourselves falsely simplifying and misrepresenting another person’s years of work.

  27. modernityblog


    A couple of points: reasoning, your MA, neuroses.

    1. I’m all for evidence based reasoning, I find it the best method to employ in these circumstances and I would agree with you completely.

    2. As for your MA thesis, you’re absolutely correct, if I am to make criticisms then they should be as helpful, be as detailed as possible and highlight any weaknesses. I will endeavour to do that later on, my faculties are not fully with me at the moment, and it would be wrong not to cover the points in detail, which sadly I can’t with my lack of concentration. I was looking for the bibliography but I couldn’t see it, do you have a link to it.

    3. “Suggestions that ‘Westerners’ should butt [out] is ridiculous. ” I do not expressly make that suggestion, I wrote: “I think that the Middle East needs peace, but what it certainly needs is less Westerners using it as a proxy for their own neurosis.

    I do NOT accused you of that, but such an attitude is common amongst political activists in and around this topic, “

    I’m sorry if I didn’t express myself sufficiently.

    I would agree with you, in the sense, that Westerners should not limit themselves to their own parochial concerns, and should always have an eye to events abroad. Isolationism in the 20th century probably assisted too many dictators and contributed to conflict.

    On the contrary I think we should all be internationalist but and this was a big but, the Western tendency to concentrate on Israel, to the near exclusion of other countries is not helpful.

    I will give you an example, there are approximately 21 members of the Arab league. 21 countries, all with their problems, their human stories, their failings and contributions to humanity.

    Yet if we were to monitor say the British Western press on the Middle East, I would bet you that stories concerning Israel, in terms of column inches, far outweigh all the other 21 countries put together.

    Again, Israel probably receives more scrutiny from the world’s media than the rest of the 21 members of the Arab league in total.

    However, Israel is one very small country and such excessive scrutiny in my view is unhealthy. I always wonder why, in western thinking, those 21 other countries are seemingly so undeserving of media attention.

    That is not to say that they receive no coverage, but if you compare those 21 countries vs. one then I’m sure you wouldn’t see 21 times the amount of column inches, or 21 times stories of trouble. No, the western preoccupation is primarily with one country in the Middle East, Israel.

    That in my view is not healthy.

    Returning to my earlier point, I tend to scour various online forum’s, I have an interest in antisemitism in the Middle East, so imagine my surprise when I see vigorous discussions on these topics, but time after time the same ignorant misconceptions come forward.

    As evidence of this I would suggest reading the SU blog, any thread related to Israel, Cif, again any thread on Israel with a large number of comments and Harry’s Place, from say 2-3 years ago.

    What you will find is a continual obsession with Israel, and unhealthy attitude towards Jews and the desire to go on and on and on, on these topics with no meaningful understanding or intelligent discussion.

    This is a key point: if people continue to discuss the topic and they do it with near excessive zeal but do not educate themselves on the topic, then you have to question why they discuss it in the first place?

    Is it because they are concerned with the welfare of the Palestinian? Is it because they have an intrinsic interest in the Middle East? or is it some conscious or subconscious prejudice against Israelis?

    I’m loath to speculate on the motives of others in a debate, but it is a characteristic of the discourse taking place in the UK and noticeably so.

    That’s my concern.

    I will give an example, IF, hypothetically, nearly every time we exchange views I ranted on about Aussie rules football, but didn’t as far as you can see know ANYTHING but the most superficial about it, then that would be strange. Perplexing why would someone have an obsession with Aussie rules football and not take the trouble to understand it?

    Yet when the topic of the Middle East comes up a similar attitude is often seen in the West, not by everyone, but there is a sizable minority who are almost galvanized into action at the mention of “Jews”, “Israelis” or “Zionists”, but share my complete ignorance of Aussie rules football, only it is the Middle East with them.

    Again, I think intelligent discussion of the Middle East is beneficial and essential but I worry that the debate is framed in very stark, incomplete terms, which is inexcusable, given the fact that most in the West have some access to the Internet, quality books and information.

    I hope you will see that point? I’ll try to return to any other matter later on.

  28. modernityblog

    PS: re-reading I saw “I can appreciate your apprehension and disdain for persons that share a perspective like mine. Yes it is different to yours”

    I should say, I do NOT hold you in disdain as I do not know the totality of your views and you are a civil fellow so I won’t try to pre-judge your views. I will let *you* express them.

    I must add that I DO hold White in contempt, having followed his arguments and contributions for the past 3+ years. I find that his willingness to make arguments on behalf of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rather distasteful, to say the least.

  29. Modernityblog,

    Try looking here

    This shows the bibliography for the thesis plus some additional bibliographies from some recent later essays on the topic.

    You may get an error message like:
    “This blog has been identified as a potential spam blog. Your readers will see a warning page until the blog is reviewed.”

    Please ignore this. Unfortunately when you reedit on blogspot it sometimes thinks spamming is occurring so the blog gets reviewed.

  30. modernityblog

    Thanks, I managed to get there.

    The bibliography looks very good and comprehensive, personally I would have junked Pappe, Peters and certainly any stuff by Israel Shahak, but the others are not too bad.

    I might have included in some scholarly works by Palestinian historians or someone like Yapp or Hourani, (maybe you did, but I couldn’t see them.) Still all a bit late for that now 🙂

  31. Thanks for the suggestion of Yapp. I briefly used Hourani. Is your criticism of Peters her ultra minimalist position on Palestinian Arab population in the early 1900s? My personal anecdote was talking with a settler who was shopping in Jerusalem and she told me there were only 10,000 ‘Arabs’ in 1910. I thought this was bunkum. Quick perusal of the Encyclopaedia Britannica 1910-11 disproves that nonsense as well as a detailed look at Justin McCarthy’s work. Joan Peters seemed to try and build her case alomg the settler’s perspective.

    What is your source of concern for Pappe? Has not the historical record benefited from that new historians like Benny Morris, Illan Pappe, Avi Shlaim and Tom Segev who have bravely challenged the false assumptions that the ‘Arabs’ were the sole cause for the Palestinian flight in 1948. For example see Uri Ram, Postnationalist Pasts: The Case of Israel, Social Science History, Vol. 22, No. 4, Special Issue: Memory and the Nation (Winter, 1998), pp. 513-545. (Uri is a sociologist from Ben Gurion University).

    Similarly what about Israel Shahak? Yes he speaks with a different voice, but he is a Holocaust survivor. He served in an elite unit of the Israeli Army and eventually rejected the direction Israel was heading with continual occupation, marginalisation and humiliation of Palestinian people.


    Be well.

  32. modernityblog

    Peter’s work, as I understand it, has been comprehensively demolished and is a polemic rather than a scholarly work.

    Her use of source material has been comprehensively criticized, her seemingly deliberate selections and omissions do not mark it out as a reliable reference source, and AS such could not be used, in my view, in scholarly analysis. Other than as an example of how NOT to do something.

    You are probably right when you say ” Joan Peters seemed to try and build her case alomg the settler’s perspective.”

    It would have been far better had she let the evidence speak for itself rather than to try to mould it into shape that she wanted.

    As for Pappe, my impression is that he takes the postmodernist view of history, as some free-form narrative not constrained by evidence or fact. Thus the product of his deliberations is probably questionable.

    The first edition of his recent book, History of Modern Palestine: One Land, Two Peoples, was seriously slated as historically inaccurate and faulty on basics, such as when things actually happened, dates, etc.

    As for Israel Shahak, I am well aware of who he is.

    I first ran across his work whilst poking around neo-Nazi web sites (they love to selectively quote Jewish sources, as if that will hide their true intent). My understanding is that his work has been questioned for its accuracy, factual and deliberate bias. Thus, it is a questionable work to include in scholarly research.

    I have NO objection to these on political ground, it is a question of method and whether or not they are competent academic works, which I believe they are not.

    I am sure they are very popular, particularly Peter’s work, which plays to people’s prejudices but that is NOT the purpose of scholarly inquiry.

  33. Thanks again for your reply.

    As a way to understand your perspective on Pappe and Shahak what’s your impression of Sir Martin Gilbert’s work – take for example his ‘Atlas of Jewish history’?

    In relation to the issue of neoNazis selectively quoting Shahak’s work I too found the same thing and was horrified. It made me initially uneasy about Shahak until I read more about his story. My first degree was in science I found creation scientist magazines selectively quoting eminent scientists eg Stephen Jay Gould to disprove evolution which was absolute rot. Gould was debating aspects of Darwinian evolution and in no way was debunking evolution as the creation scientist magazines were trying to argue.

  34. The reason why I ask is because I would see that all scholars carry their own bias, despite what they may claim. I certainly have my own bias and prejudice. The trick is to be aware of our biases or to disclose them. I would see that Shahak and Pappe because of their own experiences have oe set of biases just as Gilbert has his. This is seen in their work. Instead of using the term bias we could also use the term emphasis. For example Gilbert emphasises one aspect of the conflict in ways that Shahak and Pappe emphasise other aspects. Finding the middle ground is a tough one for all people whether they are Gilbert Shahak, Pappe or mere mortals like my self.

    What I do know is that there are people dying and we need to look at ways to stop this – hence a questioning of all what we were originally taught and investigate events for ourselves.

  35. As a mater of interest I just posted the followig on Jonathan Hoffman’s blog i response to his comments to Ben White. I posted it at 9.12am (GMT). However when I checked at 2pm (GMT) it was gone. So I guess you see it happens both ways. I will try again.

    [I have deleted the hyperlinks so the comment does not automatically go to spam]

    July 13th 9.12am (GMT)

    Dear Jonathan,

    Ben White’s book focuses on Israel’s occupation not what occurs in Israel proper (although discrimination is inevitable when state’s have one dominant community).

    Israelis, Nobel Peace prize winners and top UN officials have made comparisons of Israel’s occupation with Apartheid South Africa and even dare I say it with Nazis. Yes, such analogies should be cautiously used given the seriousness and offensiveness of the allegation. However, there are times to acknowledge when the practices of our governments do reflect racist policies as shown by Apartheid South Africa and Nazi Germany.

    As an Australian I am fully aware that my own country mimicked Apartheid policies. South Africa mimicked racist policies that had already been occurring in Queensland. The United States too lives in the shadow of an apartheid system.

    Creating a Jewish state and conquering another people in 1948/1967 will inevitably lead to discrimination and racist policies. These are hard truths.

    Despite the the many advances in civil society within Israel such principles are inevitably underminded when a state is based on racial lines and when an indigenous people resist occupation.

    1. Persons who have made comparisons between Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza with Apartheid South Africa

    Desmond Tutu, Apartheid in the Holy Land, 30 April 2002
    – see bbc news and counterpunch

    Uri Avnery, A Freedom Ride, 20 Jan 2007 – see gush shalom

    Uri Davis – see wiki and his personal homepage

    Yossi Verter, “PM loses vote on Palestinian State,” Haaretz, May 14, 2002
    Meron Benvenisti “Bantustan plan for an apartheid Israel,” Guardian, April 26, 2004

    Akiva Eldar, “Analysis: Creating a Bantustan in Gaza,” Haaretz, April 16, 2004

    Jimmy Carter: Israel’s ‘apartheid’ policies worse than South Africa’s, 11 December 2006 – see haaretz

    UNGA President calls Israeli policies ‘apartheid’
    Top UN official: Israel’s policies are like apartheid of bygone era
    United Nations General Assembly President Miguel D’Escoto Brockmann – see from occupied palestine

    2. Persons who have compared Israeli occupation with Nazi Germany

    Sir Gerald Kaufman – see British parliamentary papers and youtube

    Read Gideon Levy’s work – see from occupied palestine

    Look at Amira Hass’s video – see youtube

    Amira Hass been compared to Nazis and Hitler – see commondreams

    Settlers calling IDF soldiers Nazis – see ynet news

    Peace is possible for Palestinian, Palestinian-Israelis and Jewish-Israelis. What is required is the cessation of violence from all sides, political and civil freedoms in the Palestinian territories, economic security and reframing the historical record to acknowledge the wrongs of both communities and their common aim to live in peace and security.

  36. I posted a question to Jonathan at 10.14am. I noticed an automatic prompt saying my comment would await moderation. We will see..


    David saks Jul 13th, 2009 at 3:52 am 
I recommend that readers try out the following site:
Entitled “Let’s Talk Israel”, this is a multi-media advocacy project put together by the South African Jewish Board of Deputies aimed at showing the true face of Israel and debunking various malicious accusations made against it.

    Stewart Mills Jul 13th, 2009 at 10:14 am 
As a mater of interest I posted a comment on Jonathan Hoffman’s blog in response to his comments to Ben White. I posted it at 9.12am (GMT). However when I checked at 2pm (GMT) they were gone. 
Can you please tell me where they have gone?

  37. modernityblog

    Gilbert’s work? Not sure, it is a work of popular history, I haven’t read any reviews on it. it is mostly full of maps as I remember.

    You wrote:

    “I would see that Shahak and Pappe because of their own experiences have oe set of biases just as Gilbert has his. “

    Probably true, but that is not my point concerning these individuals or their works.

    It is the faulty method, their deliberate exclusion of inconvenient facts, their treatment of the source material.

    So it logically follows that if they have been deliberately selective and partial with their data collection then the conclusions that they draw from those sources will probably be wrong.

    It is method, not bias, that is the issue in historical research.

    PS: Z word is NOT Hoffman’s blog.

    It is the blog of the Z Word, which is an online journal published by the American Jewish Committee.

    ALl comments, including mine go into moderation on Z blog. I would not start a fight with Hoffman on that blog, if I were you.

    They tend to keep on topic, even *my* comments do not always appear, if I am over-the-top. A warning to the wise.

    • Yes, Gilbert’s atlas was a popular work of history that from my perspective sadly alienated the Palestinian story from the history. It crudely represented the Palestinian Arabs and Arab community as the aggressor and the source of all problems for the Jewish community which is ironic given the European Jewish community migrated to the region on mass only following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and British rule of Palestine. Whilst acknowledging and respecting the indigenous Arabic speaking Jewish community and the historic, religious and cultural significance of the region to the international Jewish community, sadly the European Jewish community that came during the British period of rule unintentionally created a communal backlash which is lived out to this very day. There were great exceptions such as through the actions of Judah Magnes who sought for a common nation given the significance to all peoples. However, what was lacking was clear leadership from the British, Palestinian and Jewish community to create a region that respected all people’s.

  38. Side question why when I post on this wordpress site does the time read 2.18pm and when I post on Jonathan’s site does it read 10.14 am? if so I must have checked at around 10am according to Jonathan’s clock. Either way it is after midnight in Oz and Jonathan deleted my comment. So he shares something in common with the title of this blog.

  39. Thanks modernityblog for the clarification about Z Word. That explains the time issue and the deletion. Although I would say I wrote on topic. Everything I saw affirmed Jonathan’s position, I tried an alternative perspective (on topic) which looks to have been binned.

    In relation to Shahak and Pappe the issue of the appropriateness of their methodology. I won’t respond for now. My sense is that why not give Pappe a call and chat to him. He is a local. There might be much you find in common. I am saying this in all seriousness.

  40. modernityblog

    Three points.

    1. There seems to be some confusion here over Gilbert’s work, it is not a scholarly work it is not an academic work, it is popular history. There is a grave distinction between the two, and you should not confuse that point.

    I am not here to defend Gilbert’s work. The book that you spoke of is an atlas of **Jewish**, and as a consequence naturally concentrates on,er, Jews. It is not a definitive work on the region, rather it is probably trying to convey an overall picture concerning, JEWS.

    So to criticise it for not covering other subjects is to miss the point of the book entirely, which is given away with its title.

    The book is only a hundred and odd pages, thus it would be a miracle if Gilbert or anyone else could condense a shortened history of the Jews, the Middle East, the Arabs, and all the conflicts that they were collectively or individually involved in, and do it sufficiently well to satisfy everyone.

    2. “what was lacking was clear leadership from the British, Palestinian and Jewish community to create a region that respected all people’s.”

    Again, a false historical comparison. The British did in fact try to create political structures in Palestine, the Yishuv and related organisations participated but the Arab leadership under the Mufti did not.

    I am not a fan of the British in Palestine, but to blame them for the non participation of one of the parties, when they strove, according to FCO documents and other sources, to find some amenable solution is a misreading of history.

    3. “My sense is that why not give Pappe a call and chat to him. He is a local. There might be much you find in common. I am saying this in all seriousness.”

    As for Pappe, if a professional historian can’t get basic facts correct then frankly he is not of much use. It is a bit like employing a plumber who doesn’t know what water is, or a carpenter who cannot differentiate between a srew and a nail. It is failure to do the most basic.

    I am not interested in Pappe’s postmodernist shenanigans.

  41. Modernityblog,

    I thank you for the brief opportunity to dialogue with you.

    We have made but one step.

    God’s blessing and peace be with you on your journey.

    I wish I had more time to write, but I must prioritize my time.

    Thank you for taking the time to offer me another perspective.

    Peace, Salam, Shalom

  42. modernityblog

    You are welcome, Stewart 🙂

  43. zkharya

    Seismic, may I ask if Ben White cites Nur Masalha and/or Michael White in his notes and to what end? Thank you.

  44. modernityblog


    It is very hard to ask Ben White anything, as none of *his* forums seem to allow such questioning.

    Might I suggest http://www.liberalconspiracy.org/2009/07/17/smearing-opponents-as-anti-semitic/

    He’s made a point there, so is reading the thread, not sure he’ll respond tho, White didn’t when I corrected one of his weak arguments.

    Might be worth a try?

  45. seismicshock

    Hi Zak, sure, I’m having a look for Michael White but not found anything yet. Masahla’s book “The Bible and Zionism” and “Catastrophe Remembered: Palestine, Israel and the Internal Refugees” and “Expulsion Remembered”. Also a chapter in a book, chapter title ‘The historical roots of the Palestinian refugee question.’

    White scatters his book with citations from Musalha. One example is on pp.120-121, White cites Musalha for a Ben Gurion quote saying that ‘we will abolish the partition of the country and we will expand to the whole land of Israel.’ White uses Musalha a lot in his first chapter ‘Israeli Independence, Palestinian Catastrophe’ when arguing that Israel intentionally expelled hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.

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